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Software Engineer Vs. Electrical Engineer

Software engineers and electrical engineers both use engineering principles to develop products, however they both work on different types of consumer and industrial goods. This article compares their duties as well as provides information on their career outlooks, degree requirements, and salaries.

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Comparing Software Engineers to Electrical Engineers

Software and electrical engineering professionals develop the technology used in offices, cars, and even hospitals. One designs digital items and computer applications, while the other designs electrical equipment and systems.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Software Engineers Bachelor's Degree $102,280 (all software developers) 24% (all software developers)
Electrical Engineers Bachelor's Degree $94,210 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Software Engineers vs. Electrical Engineers

Software and electrical engineers both use computers to aid their design processes, but the former create the very programs the latter use. Similarly, electrical engineers are responsible for designing the complex circuitry seen in computers. Software engineers should understand computer languages and code. Electrical engineers, on the other hand, do not necessarily require this knowledge. Instead, they specialize in the physics involved in complex electrical systems.

Software Engineers

These technical professionals are responsible for creating computer programs and applications for mobile devices. Once they understand a client's needs, they can use their knowledge on the latest tech trends to recommend software updates. They then develop the updates or create new operating systems, company intranets, or system interfaces. As software engineers design, they consider how all the pieces of a system or network will integrate. This is why they develop and test prototypes, to fix any bugs and make the product seamless and user friendly.

Job responsibilities of a software engineer include:

  • Ensuring the standardization of the product by creating models of the code for the programmers who are building the software
  • Explaining to clients the cost of creating new software, as well as any hardware requirements they may have to consider
  • Tracking server issues by collecting data on crashes
  • Leading software development teams on projects

Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers work with clients to build electrical equipment or systems. The products they make can be used to power cellular phones, cars, and even space shuttles. One tool they use is design software, which helps them map circuits, but they may also simply use pen and paper to create technical drawings of electrical systems. They also determine the timetable and budget of the project based on materials needed, such as copper and plastic. Electrical engineers may also oversee the manufacturing of their designs, such as the engines they create for electric cars or the battery for MP3 players.

Job responsibilities of an electrical engineer include:

  • Developing manufacturing specifications to ensure the electrical components are safe
  • Finding issues in prototypes by tracing the power back to the offending component
  • Supervising the installation of electrical equipment and testing it before showing it to the client
  • Improving existing products by updating the hardware

Related Careers

Someone looking into a future as a software engineer may also be interested in a position as a network architect, because both help connect people. Alternatively, those interested in becoming an electrical engineer may choose to research a career as a computer hardware engineer, considering both build and test new technology.

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